Recent political events in the Southwest, where Arizona has outlawed any K-12 curriculum that “advocates ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals,” have ignited a literary protest of national significance. On Monday, March 12, a caravan of formidable authors including Sandra Cisneros and Dagoberto Gilb left Houston on a tour spanning San Antonio, Albuquerque, and Tucson, where it arrives Friday, March 16. Dubbed “Librotraficante,” the caravan is smuggling books by Chicano authors back into the state that has effectively banned them with the passage of Arizona’s HB 2281 and the Tucson Unified School District’s resulting ban of Mexican American studies.
Librotraficante is putting the spotlight on a policy that confuses classes with no overt ethnic prejudice for truly inclusive environments where writers and historical figures of all ethnic backgrounds and gender identities receive equal billing. This is, of course, not the case. Just as the status quo in literary publishing is not absent its covert representational biases, as evidenced by VIDA’s recent numbers, K-12 curriculum in Arizona carries a covert bias toward representation of certain ethnic groups over others, a situation that ethnic studies programs address head on. With teach-ins, press conferences, readings, and a roving taco truck that will distribute effectively banned books throughout Tucson this weekend, the vigilant Librotraficantes are asserting not just the rights of Chicanos, but everyone’s right to celebrate her or his culture within American institutions.